Posts by Carolyn Matthews

  • Advent Devotion – Monday December 10

    December 10, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Monday, December 10, 2018

    The Rev. Dr. Allison Tanner, Associate Pastor, Lake Shore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, CA; ABSW ‘2000; PhD Graduate Theological Union ‘2011


    We wait with anticipation


    Psalm 126

    When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.

    Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
    then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”

    The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we rejoiced.

    Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like the watercourses in the Negeb.

    May those who sow in tears
    reap with shouts of joy.

    Those who go out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
    shall come home with shouts of joy,
    carrying their sheaves. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)
    See also: Isaiah 40:1–11, Romans 8:22–25


    Incarnation – the idea that God comes to us where we are: into our world with all its division and hostility, into our society rife with injustice and inhumanity, into our lives amidst all our pain and messiness – that God comes to us to be with us, suffer with us, and show the way to salvation among and alongside us – this is the joy, and the mystery, of Christmas.

    In this Advent season of waiting and longing for God’s presence to manifest itself once again, we stand with our ancient community of faith – with the psalmist who both celebrates the great acts of God and longs for God to act in great ways again, with the prophet who longs for comfort and declares that the Comforter is on the way, with the apostle who testifies that all of creation is waiting, hoping, longing and anticipating the first-fruits of God’s kin-dom – we take our place celebrating the historic incarnation and anticipating God’s continued interruption into our lives in ways that bring joy, healing, comfort, justice, peace and salvation.

    When we sing of that little town of Bethlehem into which the Christ-child was born, we also sing our prayer that the Christ-child be “born in us today.” Born in a way that restores God’s glory, in a way that provides comfort to those who mourn, a way that bears the weight of longing, groaning in birth pains for what is soon to come. We sing that the joy, the majesty and the mystery of Christmas not just take place in history, but within our very beings – God’s presence with us and within us, among us and amidst us – in ways that allow us to embody the divine in our world once again.

    Let us wait in anticipation, preparing the way and claiming the promise of the Holy One in our midst.


    We get anxious with the waiting, O God. We want to see you among us right now. May your Spirit bring peace to our minds and hearts, that you might be born in us today.  Amen.

  • Advent Devotion – Sunday December 9

    December 9, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Sunday, December 9, 2018

    The Rev. Dr. Rick Mixon, pastor, First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA;
    ABSW ‘73; PhD, Graduate Theological Union ’95



    May the peace of God enfold us


     Luke 1:68-79

     68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
    for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.

    69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us
    in the house of his servant David,

    70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,

    71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.

    72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant,

    73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
    might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

    76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

    77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    by the forgiveness of their sins.

    78 By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,

    79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.”  (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)


    Advent continues; our ruminations go deeper. We wait, watch, wonder if we will ever know peace.  Will we find peace in our own souls? Will there be peace on earth?  Peace is the traditional theme for the second Sunday of Advent. Not just peace as the absence of violence, but peace that passes understanding; peace that heals and makes whole; peace that allows the wolf to live with the lamb and the leopard with the kid; peace that allows a little child to lead the people and bring them back into full communion with God; peace that ensures there will be no more hurting or destruction on God’s holy mountain because the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of God (Isaiah 11:6-9).

    The Benedictus, Zechariah’s great hymn of prophecy, praise and blessing clearly moves us toward this peace that supersedes our limited understanding, that offers human wholeness, that heals the whole creation, peace that is indeed God’s shalom. Here we find ourselves waiting and watching for something that is deeply desired, wondering if it will ever come. One may long for peace but we know we live in a world in which there is much too little of it, either personally or politically. Though we may live in between times, times in which we do not yet fully know or walk in the way of peace, Zechariah promises that his little boy, John, will prepare us to bridge these times as we live towards God’s reign in hope.


    O God, in whom we move and have our being, it seems that the chaos of the world has not changed in the time since Jesus’ birth. Our best selves continue to desire peace, not only for ourselves, but for the whole world. Would that your Spirit would empower us in this season to be your hands and feet and voice for peace. Amen.

  • Advent Devotion – Saturday December 8

    December 8, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Saturday, December 8, 2018

    Minister Cherri Murphy, Spiritual Practitioner, Heart and Soul Center of Light, Oakland CA,  ABSW ‘17
    Doctoral Candidate in Public Theology


    How do we help God transform the world?  


    Luke 9:1–6

    1 Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)


    The Twelve went out “with nothing for the journey” they embarked on. Throughout their mission they fought and managed to hold on to their Christian beliefs/practices while also creating new ones. The Twelve also took responsibility to take action, cultivating a sense of courage and great resilience to recover from adversities…and so must we.  We must get uncomfortable, releasing our creaturely ways, putting our bodies and faith on the line for the sake of proclaiming the kingdom of God.  The question is how bold enough do we love God to transform the world?

    Today, media outlets immediately allow us to see reports about strife between communities, nations and even neighbors.  As Christians we are committed to going from village to village spreading the good news that will improve our lives and those of all deemed as outcasts.  What spiritual practices must we embody to drive out all demons and cure diseases of racism, mass incarceration, sexual violence, homelessness, climate change, poverty, transphobia?

    With the power and authority that will make a change let us embody a spiritual practice that will support us in getting clear on how bold enough we love God.  Because what we really love is only as good as the work we do to create a loving and just world.


    Gracious Lord, help us to have the eyes to see what resources you provide for us. Help us to hear your call. May we trust in you for all our needs, and the needs of the world. Amen.

  • Advent Devotion – Friday December 7

    December 7, 2018 ~ Carolyn Matthews

    Sunday, December 7, 2018

    The Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran, Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of the Rocky Mountains, member, Board of Trustees, American Baptist Seminary of the West, Berkeley, CA


    Light comes into our world


    Luke 1:76-79

    76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

    77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
    by the forgiveness of their sins.

    78 By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,

    79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (New Revised Standard Version – NRSV)


    We seem to be living in an age of darkness—darkness where we are unable to see our shortcomings (aka sins) but can clearly see the shortcomings of others. And in that world, an abundance of prophetic voices seem to be emerging.

    We differ over the extent of police brutality and legitimate law enforcement. Some fail to acknowledge institutionalized prejudice while others fail to acknowledge their intense suspicion of the “establishment.”

    We differ over questions of immigration and security. We become so entrenched in policy and procedure, that the stories of the individuals are discounted; they are simply a pawn in the greater good.

    And besides the ones stumbling about in the margins of this great darkness, there are all those in the middle who have grown so tired of the arguing and fussing that they simply check out and neither say nor do anything.

    We are living in an age of darkness. But modern prophets often seem only to cast a cloud that shrouds the moon’s reflection of Light into our darkness and shrouds the promise of the dawning of a new day.

    The prophet came to proclaim the forgiveness of our narrow viewpoints, apathy or in-action; to proclaim forgiveness of our sin. And the prophet came to proclaim the promise of God’s love appearing as the rising sun to guide us on the path of peace.

    The prophet came to point to the coming of the Christ, Jesus; to point to the dawning of a new age: an age of love and hope. The prophet came to prepare the way for Jesus. As we seek to be prophetic in this age of darkness, are our actions and words preparing the way for Jesus, or are they just spreading more darkness in an already dark world?


    Lord, guide me that my words may prophesy Jesus, hope, and light, not darkness. Amen.